Tuesday, 11 June 2019
Ceisteanna ó Cheannairí - Leaders' Questions
I want to raise something that is very urgent and important; much more urgent than anything of that nature. This month two new reports on what is happening to our globe were published. Ice is melting in the Arctic at six times the rate that was previously thought according to a report from the University of Edinburgh, which was published in early June. The global plant survey from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew shows that plant life is becoming extinct five times faster than was thought to be the case. In northern India as I speak, poor people who have no shelter or access to water are dropping dead in the worst heatwave the country has ever experienced, with 40°C heat recorded in Delhi and 51°C recorded in other parts of northern India. I ask the Taoiseach to engage with us in a serious conversation about what the hell his Government is doing in response to climate change. I heard him on television, following the green wave in the recent election, saying that he gets it and understands it but I ask him to give us evidence of that. In the past week, since the results of the election were announced, I discovered that the Minister for Communications, Climate Action and Environment has slapped a money message on the Petroleum and Other Minerals Development (Amendment) (Climate Emergency Measures) Bill 2018 that we have painstakingly tried to rescue from the hostage position in which it has been held by this Government. There are also money messages on Sinn Féin's Microgeneration Support Scheme Bill 2017 and the Green Party's Waste Reduction Bill 2017.
These money messages seriously need to be questioned because they involve small amounts - beer money, really - compared with what the Government is willing to spend on defending Donald Trump or on a botched tendering process for broadband. Some €26 million was spent on tendering for broadband and at least €10 million was spent on the Trump visit. The Government is using tiny amounts as an excuse to block serious Bills, which would send a message to the fossil fuel and plastic industries and tell them that the game is up and that they will have to start paying for the damage they are doing to the planet. The State seems to be fond of slapping taxes on little people whether in the form of water taxes, increased carbon taxes, or increased property tax. Why the hell is the same attitude not taken to the global corporations that irresponsibly continue to dig up and burn fossil fuels and to develop the plastics industry which is destroying our oceans and their ecology? Everybody else pays for it while they do not, yet they continue to make vast profits. Rather than attacking my Bill in a sentence again, is the Taoiseach seriously saying that it is worth blocking these measures to pay some kind of lip service to industry while holding back this country's progress towards being a leader in dealing with climate chaos?